Sunday, August 17, 2014

(Shallow Reporting Pseudo-Feuds?) North Carolina’s (Duke-Sponsored) Governor Has Decided He Wants the State To Get Fracked - Whether It’s Safe or Not (Turning Tar Heels Into Tar Balls) So Now Dumbest State; Second Ex-Citadel Worker Guilty in Trade-Secrets Case; Human Rights Watch Barred from Egypt (It's Not About You - It's About Hillary (and Obama) - And The Owners) Earning the Templeton! Fraud

Have you ever tried to make yourself cry (to clear out the clogs (over political realities, of course)) - get irrationally emotional - blame everyone who treated you badly in exactly the sensitive manner in which you thought they deserved?

Not me.

I credit this:

Join the march.

Sign the petition!

100,000 People Sign-up To Support NYT Reporter James Risen, Who Is Facing Jail*

More Koch-infected buying madness?

Did you doubt it?

The kafkaesque disclosure provision is yet another example of the Koch Brothers buying laws from complicit crooks (ie., politicians). Go figure. They hit the jackpot in North Carolina, The Frack Heel State, for an unenforceable bit of corporate fascism.

Ain't living in breath-taking, pristine-aired North Carolina a gas?

So it would seem. (No apologies:  Bob Jackson's a friend of mine and a man (scientist) of the highest integrity.)

North Carolina Frack Study: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

by Chip Northrup

August 13, 2014

North Carolina’s governor has decided he wants the state to get fracked.

Whether it’s safe or not. One thing we know for sure, the shale there is really shallow, so if they hit gas anywhere during the drilling or fracking – up she comes. Turning Tar Heels into Tar Balls.

Duke Scientists’ Fracking Warnings Fall on Deaf Ears

August 12, 2014

Robert Jackson and Avner Vengosh of Duke University’s esteemed Nicholas School are viewed by some in the oil and gas industry as enemies. At Duke, they’ve done studies with compelling evidence that shale gas extraction, fracking, causes drinking water problems in other states.

The industry, which got North Carolina to lift its moratorium on fracking with drilling next year, has long made the case that drilling is absolutely safe.

Jackson and Vengosh have serious doubts about that, and given that the Nicholas School in the field of environmental science is considered among the elite in the county, it would be logical to assume that state officials developing rules to govern shale gas exploration would want to hear from them.

But the N.C. Mining and Energy Commission did not invite either Jackson or Vengosh to offer any views while commission members were in the process of determining the rules.

“With all due respect to Avner Vengosh,” said recently resigned commission Chairman James Womack, “he’s not interested in drilling. His studies are all aimed at the downside of oil and gas development.” (Which is normally how you make regulations . . . )
Vengosh says instead that he’s all about science.

And Vengosh and Jackson, who’s taking a job at Stanford University, have some pretty strong science behind their belief that fracking causes contamination of drinking water, among other problems.

In 2011, they got water samples from private drinking wells in Pennsylvania and New York in areas where there was shale gas drilling. High levels of methane were found in the samples close to where gas wells were drilled. The industry said the research was flawed.

Then in 2013 they repeated that 2011 study with twice the samples and got the same result. Also in 2013, they tested water samples from Arkansas and did not find methane gas contamination.

The scientists also found radioactivity in a Pennsylvania stream that had been a discharge site for treated wastewater from fracking.

Jackson and Vengosh did have some published research on the need for distance between gas wells and drinking wells, but it appears as public hearings are about to begin on safety standards that two people who happen to have pretty dramatic evidence of the risks in fracking are essentially being ignored.

Why? Well, Gov. Pat McCrory has been one of the most vocal governors in the country about fracking, which he believes will boost North Carolina’s economy. And GOP legislative leaders want to push ahead with fracking, which involves the high pressure release of water into the ground to break up shale rock and release natural gas.

The oil and gas industry is big on it, but environmentalists question the idea on a couple of counts, one of them being the dangers to drinking water and the other raising some doubt about whether there actually will be natural gas reserves worth the trouble in North Carolina.

Jackson says North Carolina needs to be especially careful because shale rock formations in the state are shallow in the ground (less than a mile underground) compared to other shale gas basins and so fluids injected could seep up through faults.
And Vengosh said state officials should study the state’s wastewater and test treatment techniques before building the actual facilities to treat the water. And treated water, Vengosh said, should never be discharged into rivers.

These issues are worrisome, of course, because since taking over all three branches of state government, Republicans have loosened environmental rules in the name of being “business friendly” and to some degree because they have long viewed environmental protection as a “liberal” cause.

Can they be counted upon to do their due diligence when it comes to safety research about fracking, even to the point of changing course and acknowledging that perhaps fracking isn’t for North Carolina after all? It’s a legitimate question.

Unfortunately, Republicans apparently don’t want to talk to anyone who might give them an answer they don’t want to hear.



How Gas Wells Leak

Read more here

North Carolina Officially Dumbest Fracking State

by Chip Northrup on June 5, 2014

By adopting a law that criminalizes disclosure of frack chemicals – which other states, such as Texas and Wyoming, require the fracker to disclose, and that Halliburton already makes available the chemical components of which are publicly available from other sources, including state and national directories:

California Proposition 65 – All components listed

MA Right-to-Know Law - One or more components listed.
NJ Right-to-Know Law – One or more components listed.
PA Right-to-Know Law – One or more components listed.

Canadian Regulations -Canadian DSL Inventory All components listed on inventory.

As a practical matter, anyone outside of the state of North Carolina with a chemistry set could publish a list of the chemical composition and distribute it in defiance of this pea-brained law. Evidently the frack shills of North Carolina did not get that memo, or the Koch Brothers did not bother to tell them.

For such disclosure to be a criminal act, the state would have to prove that the state has an interest in keeping the chemical cocktail confidential (which is clearly a civil intellectual property matter, not a criminal matter)  and that the chemicals are in fact not otherwise known or discoverable (via disclosure elsewhere or with a chemistry kit) so I’d expect a legal challenge to that provision as being unconstitutional. And fracking idiotic.
The kafkaesque disclosure provision is yet another example of the Koch Brothers buying laws from complicit crooks (ie., politicians). Go figure. They hit the jackpot in North Carolina, The Frack Heel State, for an unenforceable bit of corporate fascism.

What do you expect from a state where the legal marriageable age is 14 ?

Fracking Law Passes in North Carolina

Jun 05, 2014

By Sheeka Strickland, Sr Producer of Digital Media

FOX 35 News Orlando

Fracking Law Passes in North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory signed the “Frack Everything Bill”, which will allow companies to start fracking in North Carolina. If they can actually find anything worth fracking. . . The law paves the way for companies to begin getting permitted.

It also makes it a felony for anyone to disclose information about the fracking chemicals pumped into the ground, streams, municipal water plants, etc. 
The law created a lot of controversy among people who were passionately for and against fracking in the state.

Governor McCrory said, “We remain intensely focused on creating good jobs, particularly in our rural areas,” said Governor McCrory. “We have watched and waited as other states moved forward with energy exploration, and it is finally our turn. This legislation will spur economic development at all levels of our economy, not just the energy sector.”

Read more: here.

Fuck. What a price to pay for bartender jobs.

Second Ex-Citadel Worker Guilty in Trade-Secrets Case

By Andrew Harris

Aug 12, 2014

A former Citadel LLC employee whose job was to research and develop high-frequency trading strategies pleaded guilty to obstructing a probe into the theft of trade secrets from the Chicago-based investment firm.

Sahil Uppal, 26, entered his plea today before U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle in Chicago, five days after co-defendant Yihao Pu pleaded guilty to taking proprietary information from Citadel and to stealing computer code from a New Jersey company. Their trial had been set for Sept. 2.

Led by founder Kenneth C. Griffin, Citadel manages more than $20 billion in assets, according to its website.

Pu and Uppal joined Griffin’s firm four months apart in 2010 after working for a Red Bank, New Jersey, investment technologies business, according to an April 2013 indictment.

Each signed a non-disclosure agreement, pledging not to use Citadel’s confidential information for anyone else’s benefit including their own.

By the time he arrived at Citadel, Pu, 26, had already taken proprietary computer code from the New Jersey firm, he confessed in court last week. The firm wasn’t identified in court filings. Uppal today admitted he’d written three computer scripts for quantitative trading for Citadel and transferred them to a computer accessible by him and Pu, without the firm’s permission.

Equipment Removed

In August 2011, Citadel representatives confronted Pu with their suspicions that he had taken confidential information and told him to return anything he had. Uppal and an unidentified person later removed computer equipment from Pu’s apartment, including hard drives containing the firm’s confidential information, Assistant U.S. Attorney Lindsay Jenkins told Norgle today, reading from a plea agreement.

After telling Uppal he faced as long as 20 years in prison and a top fine of $250,000, Norgle asked, “What have you decided to do?”

“I have decided to plead guilty,” Uppal said.

Sentencing for both men is set for Nov. 7.

Uppal’s attorney, Daniel Collins, declined to comment after today’s hearing. Katie Spring, a spokeswoman for Citadel, had no immediate comment on Uppal’s plea.

Pu was first charged in 2011. A later 13-count indictment was revised in 2013 to add charges against him and introduce seven against Uppal, including six for wire fraud.

Pu, who faced more than 20 counts including wire fraud, theft of trade secrets, computer fraud and obstruction, pleaded guilty to two counts of stealing trade secrets, each of which is punishable by as long as 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The case is U.S. v. Pu, 11-cr-00699, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago).
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

This never happened under Hosni Mubarak.

Some combination of denial and fear led the Egyptian government to refuse my colleague and me entrance to the country on Sunday night. The form wrapped around my colleague's passport describing why we were being denied entry was checked, "For security reasons."
It was an unprecedented step. No one from Human Rights Watch had ever been barred from Egypt, even during the darkest days of former President Hosni Mubarak's rule. But the reason for my visit was also unprecedented - a massacre that rivals the most notorious of recent times, such as China's Tiananmen killings in 1989 and Uzbekistan's Andijan slaughter in 2005.
I went to Cairo to present the results of a detailed investigation that Human Rights Watch had conducted into last year's massacre by Egyptian security forces of protesters at a large sit-in demonstration in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square, which was organized to oppose the military's ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first elected civilian president. In one day - indeed, in some 12 hours - security forces killed at least 817 people, each of whom has been individually identified by Human Rights Watch, and quite likely more than 1,000. The slaughter was so systematic that it probably amounts to a crime against humanity under international law.
The sit-in had been underway for a month and a half when Egyptian authorities moved to quash it. Egyptian officials promised a gradual dispersal that would include warnings and a safe exit for anyone who chose to leave. The actual dispersal was anything but that. Early in the morning of Aug. 14, 2013, security forces launched their operation: Within minutes, security forces - advancing on crowds of protesters with bulldozers, armed personnel carriers, and hundreds of ground forces - were already firing live ammunition, sometimes in intense fusillades.

If you haven't read Sardonicky's latest mind-focusing political report yet, please do so.


August 16, 2014

It's Not About You. It's About Obama and Hillary.

Everything wrong with the American media-political complex in one fell swoopagraph:

In this summer of global tumult, the debate in Washington essentially boils down to two opposite positions: It is all President Obama’s fault, according to his critics; no, it is not, according to his supporters, because these are events beyond his control.
So, which came first? The shallow play-acting of the elites, or the shallow reportage of the sycophants?

And what does it really matter? Peter Baker's front page article in the New York Times, which turns complicated world events into a Manichean debate between foes and friends of the current front-man of the plutocracy, is all too emblematic of what passes for journalism. He said/she saids/ pseudo-feuds breaking up the Money Party, and the erection of straw men serve to mask the real story:  that democracy is a theatrical sham, and that ordinary people are screwed.

It's the kind of reporting that makes the civil unrest in Missouri all about how much it is ruining Obama's vacation, or guessing how long it will take Hillary to "weigh in" on the events. ("Twitter Is Starting to Wonder!") It's the lazy soap opera method of political reporting. It's what happens when six media conglomerates control 90% of we see, hear, and read. It's when advocacy/adversarial journalism in the public interest is transformed into access stenography in the service of "the debate in Washington."

It's the kind of journalism that inspired Maureen Dowd to write a column last week on the death of Robin Williams and quickly morph it into a column about Hillary publicly dissing Barry's foreign policy. Actually, Dowd does make a sly, barbed, satirical point:  Everything in the Consumer States of America - even death - can be connected to everything else. Everybody has infinite degrees of separation... especially celebrities in the incestuous world of media, politics and entertainment!

My published comment, playing right along, in response to her piece:

Robin Williams had a thousand faces. Hillary has two.

Robin Williams had a wicked sense of humor. Hillary's recent performance art has just been wicked and senseless. First, she claimed to be dead broke and blamed it on her lack of artfulness. And now she's resorting to bare naked artifice, a two-bit Medea claiming that Obama didn't want to arm the Syrian rebels and bomb Assad into oblivion.

She would have preferred unilateral bellicose action. An imperial presidency on steroids is what we can expect if we elect Hillary (or any other Republican) as our next commander in chief.

Not for nothing was she John "Bomb Iran" McCain's honored guest at his elite and secretive Sedona festival of the neocons.

Elizabeth Warren is the one with the humor. Last April, as various pundits tried to back her into a corner about running, she allowed that Clinton would be a "terrific" candidate. She just kind of cagily forgot to mention for which party.

Warren is among the throngs of people all too well acquainted with the woman of two faces. Back when Hillary was newly installed by birthright in the US Senate, Warren was a consumer advocate lobbying for a strong bankruptcy protection bill to benefit regular people. Hillary promised she'd vote for it. And then she promptly voted against it.

So, while Obama is carefully pondering foreign policy as he golfs, this latest act in the All About Hillary melodrama is simply par for the course.

In the past week alone, four (Dowd, Gail Collins, Frank Bruni and David Brooks) of the eleven-hack Times stable of op-ed writers each devoted entire columns to the staged Hillary-Barack Tango. And for one-sided sycophancy on steroids, you might as well also throw in Thomas Friedman's Sunday puff piece on Obama. Only Charles Blow saw fit to address the social upheaval in Missouri without making it all about sleazy politicians. Then again, he is the Designated Black Columnist at the Grey Lady.

Meanwhile, Paul Krugman is wisely ignoring topics both shallow and fraught, and actually still talking about stimulus and austerity. He framed his piece around a comparison between the reactionary "too-muchers" (stimulus causes inflation and Greece!) and the "not-enoughers" (himself, and others who thought there was not enough stimulus) and how austerity in Europe is a big, big mistake and might even cause another lost generation, like in Japan.

And then he again went into his standard Doctor Pangloss mode, soothing that "the good news is that things don’t look that dire in America, where job creation seems finally to have picked up and the threat of deflation has receded, at least for now."

My response:

The trouble with the too-muchers is that too much is never enough. The one and only goal of capitalism is constant expansion, even if it means engorging itself on our lifeblood like a demented tic(k). The plutocrats will die of gluttony, we will die of anemia.

You know who the real "not-enoughers" are? Average Americans whose wages have decreased by 23% since 2008. To say that the situation here is not as dire as in Europe because job creation "seems to have picked up" is cold comfort to those who are literally having their lives cut short by the insatiable greed of those at the very top.

At least the too-muchers don't have so much influence in Europe that they've destroyed government-run health care, or dumbed down and privatized public education, or weaponized and militarized their countries to the point of no return. At least they don't arrest people for sleeping in their cars. At least their income inequality isn't nearly as severe as ours, ranking as we do at rock bottom on the Gini coefficient scale.

The caterwauling of American conservatives over inflation is just part of their free-floating crusade of terror, designed (to) keep us cowed and quiet as our numbers are cruelly culled via Social Darwinism. When it's not the inflation bogeyman out to get us, they'll say it's ISIS who's sneaking across the border to murder us all in our beds.

Anything to deflect our attention from the real culprits:  the parasites of the plutocracy.

They are just too, too much.

So in the spirit of everything being connected to everything, I hereby declare an Open Thread commenting free-for-all. Have at it. Because despite what the Times says, it is indeed All About You!

Update 8/17:  In the same spirit, Maureen Dowd has written a fantastic piece on Times reporter James Risen's fight against the Obama administration, which is threatening him with jail for refusing to name a source in a book which outlined a CIA plot (what else). Dowd writes:

How can he (Obama) use the Espionage Act to throw reporters and whistle-blowers in jail even as he defends the intelligence operatives who “tortured some folks,” and coddles his C.I.A. chief, John Brennan, who spied on the Senate and then lied to the senators he spied on about it?

“It’s hypocritical,” Risen* said. “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin. They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”
Wow. If you thought this was another Dowd column that would bring the usual knee-jerk chorus of outrage from the Obamabots, think again. I've read through all of the 80 or so comments posted so far, and I think a grand total of two (both highlighted by editors) are actually in the president's court on this issue. Here's my comment:

Great column exposing the rank hypocrisy and bone-chilling assault on the free press which characterizes The Most Transparent Administration Ever (TM).

It is baffling to me how a president who has never denied holding weekly "Terror Tuesday" meetings to decide whom to drone-kill, who has jailed more whistleblowers than any other president, who has gone after leakers like a paranoid Nixon on steroids, who has protected torturers and Wall Street fraudsters while millions of people have slid into poverty, could still enjoy an approval rating in the low 40s.

People either aren't paying attention, or they prefer their lesser evilism with a personable smile as opposed to the blatant malevolence that is the face of today's GOP.

Risen, along with such stalwarts as Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill and Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, are the exceptions to the rule. When not self-censoring out of fear of surveillance, most reporters seem more interested in gaining access to the powerful than in afflicting them. Advocacy writing in the public interest has gone the way of the rotary phone.

The recent police crackdown in Missouri is nothing new. The war on terror is a euphemism for the war on civil dissent. Under Obama, police arrested at least 7,000 Occupy protesters nationwide in an orchestrated crackdown, while Homeland Security fusion centers spied on their every move.

James Risen deserves the Medal of Freedom for having the courage to stand up for all of us.

The Unbearable Squishiness of Jonathan Haidt

I’ve been reading Jonathan Haidt’s work over the years with an attitude that follows an unfortunate trajectory, downwards. At first, it was with interest — his ideas about moral intuition being defined by a kind of emotional response first with the intellectual response forming a veneer of rationalizations after the fact seems valid. But then he went off on this “moral foundations” stuff, where he identified different axes of motivations, like care vs. harm, and then the axes started proliferating, and pretty quickly it all became a lumpy mush without much utility.

He’s succumbed to Labeling Disease, something that hits some psychologists hard, in which they observe that which they measure, stick a name on it, and try hard to reify it into existence, even if it has no correspondence to any substrate in the brain at all. Id, ego, superego, anyone?

Then he won a Templeton Prize, shredding most of his credibility. Lately he’s been wandering around in a fog of sincere open-mindedness, letting his brain sublimate into a kind of misty moral ambiguity that looks more like blithe nihilism than anything else.

And now he’s done an interview on Freakanomics, where glibness rules, and manages to be so vapid I’m completely turned off to the new book he’s flogging. He did manage to solidify my opinion of him, though…just not in a good way.

He’s got to earn that Templeton, first of all.

People who share sacred objects and then circle around them can then trust each other and function more effectively, particularly in intergroup competition. I believe this is in fact why we evolved to be religious. But the sacred thing at the center does not have to be a god. It can be a flag, a book, an ideal, or a social institution such as marriage or science.

The New Atheists are mostly men of science, or men who claim to speak for science. But when you make science sacred and then claim to speak for it, something very unfortunate happens: you don’t just think your opponents are wrong, you think they are stupid, and you adopt an arrogant and dismissive tone. You’ve got science on your side, after all. (I argue in my book that the New Atheists get the science mostly wrong.) The religion/atheism debate is therefore particularly prone to straw men and smug declarations.

There is so much wrong with that paragraph — it’s like an artful collage of the dumbest statements made about atheism in the last decade. Let’s take them apart piece by piece.

Take it apart here.

Or we could move to France (where the conversation is undoubtedly more en pointe).

I just met the local honorary French consul who is from the area shown below (by the way, it has the best health care in Europe).


Otherwise, we'll have to move to Singapore or Hong Kong.

À bientôt!

No comments: